It appears as though the resurgent interest in Route 66 is about to fuel the resurrection of another landmark, this time in my adopted home town of Kingman, Arizona. Since its gala opening in 1939, the El Trovatore Motel, originally the El Trovatore Autel, has followed the evolutionary course of most motels of this vintage along Route 66.
|The Hualapai Mountains as seen from the the rear of the complex|
Initially it was a plush, modern complex offering travelers a wide array of amenities including air conditioning, an on site cafe, and tiled showers. Located one mile east of Kingman in what was then the unincorporated community of El Trovatore, the complex had one feature few motels could equal – a location on a stony bluff that awarded stunning vistas of the Hualapai Mountains and the awe inspiring landscapes that embraced it. Indicative of its luxury status is the listing in the Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages published by AAA in 1940. The listed rates are $3.50 per night in comparison to motels such as the Gypsy Garden, $2.00 to $2.50 per night, the Akron Hotel Cottages, $2.00 per night, and Wal-A-Pai, $2.25 to $2.50 per night.
The motel weathered the first blow, transition of the highway from two lanes to four lanes in the mid 1950s that resulted in demolition of the units in the curve of the “U” shaped complex. Added to the complex during this transitional phase was the the current sign at the front of the property, a swimming pool, and a modern office at the north end of the east wing of the motel. By the late 1960s it had slid into the budget motel classification and by the late 1980s, weekly rentals were fast becoming the bread and butter for the owners. Then came weekly or monthly rentals, code violations, late night police calls, and a darkened neon sign. Even after Sam Frisher, the current owner, acquired the property the slide that culminated with closure last year continued. Frisher, in an interview with Ron Warnick of Route 66 News provided a few details about this era in the properties history.
|Preserved tile floors in the bathrooms enahnce the time capusle feel ofthe property.|
After extensive evaluation of what to do with the sprawling complex, including ideas on creating an apartment complex or a gated senior living complex, Frisher decided that the best possible return for his money was to resurrect it as a Route 66 landmark and transform it back into a motel. To that end he has restored several rooms, preserving as much of the orignal tile and other components as possible, outfitted them with new beds and appliances, and added a movie star theme to each. On Saturday afternoon, my dearest friend and I toured the property while enjoying the friendly hospitality of Sam, his wife, Karen, and little dog, Taco. Even though I had a general familiarity with the property, including its origins as the creation of John F. Miller, the founder of the Nevada Hotel in Las Vegas, a property that evolved into the Golden Gate Casino.
|An art deco gem at the heart of the complex.|
Still, I was quite surprised by the overall historical integrity of the property that ranged from the beautiful art deco building at the center of the complex to the towering with its neon framed block letters on a bluff at the rear of the property. I have reason to believe the former was the original office as well as the managers residence. Frisher’s plan to restore the neon tower is quite exciting. I have had discussions with numerous long time residents of Kingman and few can remember the last time its neon lit the night.
A key component to the Frisher’s plans for renovation centers on the art deco building with its rounded glass brick corner, and the tower on the bluff. Proposed for the building is transition to meeting rooms and or a gym. On the bluff surrounding the tower, he plans to construct an observation deck and gazebo that will provide absolutely stunning views of the canyon below, the trains that flow past in a seemingly endless stream, and the Hualapai Mountains. One of the more exciting aspects about the renovation of the property is its size. Most tour groups on Route 66 have to forgo the renovated historic motels as a result of unit availability. The El Trovatore, when fully refurbished, will easily be able to accommodate groups of fifty or more. Overflow for large groups could be provided by the historic Hill Top Motel across the highway. As an introductory price, the Frisher’s are offering rooms at $39.99 per night. This will include a breakfast for two at a local restaurant.